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Mary Douglas - Purity and Danger

Anth Theory

Michael G

on 1 February 2014

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Transcript of Mary Douglas - Purity and Danger

Mary Douglas: Purity and Danger
A presentation by Michael Giulietti
British social scientist
Who was she?
E. E. Evans-Pritchard
Who influenced her?
Medical Materialism
Forget we have a true, complete view of the world
Forget that it can ever be attained
Her ideas:
Cross cultural comparisons
Matter out of place?
Not just dirt then but a whole system
The question of the biblical
dietary laws
Matter of faith?
Muscle extract from pharmacologists
The Leviticus Laws in Context
The dietary restrictions should be considered in context!
Confusions are abominated. you shall not lie with beasts,
have clothes of two fibers, or have a field with two seeds.
On animals, "They should conform fully to their class." (pg 55)
When god made the earth, he separated the animals into classes such as flying things & crawling things. Any animal that crosses these boundaries is "unwholey" Because it is not whole, it is an abomination.
A Pigs' place in the natural order was ambiguous because they shared the cloven hoof of the ungulates, but did not chew cud.
Connecting it to today
She often applied her work to her own reality and didn't see them as different spheres. She critized western culture for becoming individualized rather than embracing rituals that hold together society. She believed this was the root of much of the evil that occurred in the world and that is was possible for a culture to be "at war with itself."
Primitive cultures are more unified because they maintain religious rituals that penetrate almost every area of their life. Our rituals are not unified because our lives are compartmentalized. We do not believe rituals hold power. This comes from Christian traditions that taught inner integrity rather than strict adherence to outer rituals.
For us, pollution is a nuisance but for primitives it is cosmic pollution (because we have compartmentalized everything).
This is done to mediate between the two worlds
Remember the LeLe twin-birthers from your reading?
This isn't a ritual... it's practical!
1) Magic
2) Assumed religion to be for Individual
3) Asserted Magic was instant
4) Robertson-Smith was the one who should be famous.
These classifications and ritual observances help set the boundaries for society
Mixing up clean and unclean?
Are they being irrational?
At certain times certain people can use the power that exists in pollution.
It can uphold cosmic order and can help support societal structure
In summary...
* Cultures have a structure that is supported by classification systems

*Cosmic pollution can occur when things are out of order.

*Sometimes dangerous unclean items are used by certain actors to restore purity

* Assuming that science is the explanation for all things cultural is bound to lead us to miss the larger point

On a final note:
In the 2002 preface to Purity and Danger, she recanted her work claiming that God would never make an animal that was imperfect.
Things that are in-between classifications are dangerous to us.
Full transcript